Read The Complete Short Novels by Anton Chekhov Richard Pevear Larissa Volokhonsky Online


Anton Chekhov, widely hailed as the supreme master of the short story, also wrote five works long enough to be called short novels–here brought together in one volume for the first time, in a masterly new translation by the award-winning translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.The Steppe—the most lyrical of the five—is an account of a nine-year-old boy’s frighteAnton Chekhov, widely hailed as the supreme master of the short story, also wrote five works long enough to be called short novels–here brought together in one volume for the first time, in a masterly new translation by the award-winning translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.The Steppe—the most lyrical of the five—is an account of a nine-year-old boy’s frightening journey by wagon train across the steppe of southern Russia. The Duel sets two decadent figures—a fanatical rationalist and a man of literary sensibility—on a collision course that ends in a series of surprising reversals. In The Story of an Unknown Man, a political radical spying on an important official by serving as valet to his son gradually discovers that his own terminal illness has changed his long-held priorities in startling ways. Three Years recounts a complex series of ironies in the personal life of a rich but passive Moscow merchant. In My Life, a man renounces wealth and social position for a life of manual labor.The resulting conflict between the moral simplicity of his ideals and the complex realities of human nature culminates in a brief apocalyptic vision that is unique in Chekhov’s work.(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed) From the Hardcover edition....

Title : The Complete Short Novels
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ISBN : 9781400032921
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 548 Pages
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The Complete Short Novels Reviews

  • William1
    2019-02-01 14:54

    Second reading. This is a collection of novellas. My Life: A Provincial's Story is a brilliant, deeply impressive, story. Its structure is perfect, its characterizations deft, spot on, its descriptive passages vivid, tactile, redolent. Set in 1890 or so it's narrated by a young man, Misail, a noble, who has this highly romanticized notion of manual labor. (Based in part on Kropotkin's theories of cooperative evolutionary relationships. See Mutual Aid.) His contempt for so-called intellectual work, such as that undertaken by his ungifted architect father, drives that man half mad. He fears Misail will turn his back on his noble advantages and become a worker, which would be a humiliation to him. This is just what Misail does. It's a hideous life he's chosen. His narration is in part a virtual exposé on the corrupt daily practices of just about everyone in town, and it's searing, scandalous. The nobility, the peasants, the workers, the clergy--everyone's taking his off-the-books kickback. He is quite alone for a long time, but because he has acted on what he believes in, he meets those whom he thinks of as his first true friends in the narrow-minded provincial town. Masha is the daughter of the town engineer, a predacious capitalist who's building a railroad near the town. The other is a young man, Vladimir, soon to take his qualification test to become a doctor. Meanwhile, Misail's sister is a virtual slave to the tyrannical father. Not until her life is half over does she, seizing perhaps on Misail's example, break away from him. I have read Chekhov's entire corpus of 400 or so stories. In my humble view My Life is among the 25 or so that are his through-the-roof masterpieces. But be sure to read the Peaver-Volokhonsky translation, not Contance Garnett's.

  • Ray
    2019-01-21 18:07

    A slice of Russian provincial life from the late 19th century, told in five tales.In this book Chekhov provides us with a glimpse into family life - love, loss, betrayal, infidelity - together with drunkeness, spite, theft and fury. In some ways these themes make for a modern read, and indeed some of the plots could be TV soaps with just a few modernising tweaks. However other aspects are alien - there is lots written about servants and horses, and we see the thrill of the newfangled railways as they start to carpet the country. In particular the episode in the first story "The Steppe" where a seven year old boy goes skinny dipping with adults he has only just met and is then rubbed down with oil by a priest - innocence that jars in these more jaded and cynical times.My own favourite story was the Duel, where a philanderer and wastrel is brought to his senses in the face of death, rediscovers love and one assumes lives happy ever after.

  • S.L. Jones
    2019-01-31 19:52

    I was sort of upset when I came upon the last page, and had to finish this book - this is the kind of book that could go on, and on, and on, and you wouldn’t get bored. This book is life, the fate of so many seemingly real people, and the perfect escape from your own subsistence.Some quotes of my preference (very random):“The Russian man likes to remember, but does not like to live.”“To constantly go into raptures over nature is to show the paucity of your imagination. All these brooks and cliffs are nothing but trash compared to what my imagination can give me.”“I’m sorry the man is not in military service. He’d make an excellent, brilliant general. He’d know how to drown his cavalry in the river and make bridges from the corpses, and such boldness is more necessary in war than any fortifications or tactics.”“Prejudice and hatefulness. When soldiers see a girl of light behavior, they guffaw and whistle, but ask them what they are themselves.”"It takes all kinds to make a world" (Det finns fölk till allt.)“When he lapsed into thought over supper, rolling little balls of bread and drinking a good deal of red wine, then, strangely enough, I was almost certain that there was something sitting in him which he probably sensed vaguely himself, but which, because of bustle and banalities, he never managed to understand and appreciate.”“I look at love first of all as a need of my organism, low and hostile to my spirit; it should be satisfied reasonably or renounced entirely, otherwise it will introduce elements as impure as itself into your life.”"The meaning of life is only in one thing—in struggle. To plant your heel on the vile serpent’s head so that it goes ‘crack!’ The meaning is in that. In that alone, or else there’s no meaning at all.”".. they found the gray Moscow weather most pleasant and healthy. Days when cold rain raps at the windows, and dusk falls early, and the walls of houses and churches take on a brown, mournful color, and you do not know what to put on when you go outside—such days pleasantly excited them."“I’m quite unable to adjust to life, to master it. Another man talks stupidly, or cheats, and does it so cheerfully, while it happens that I do good consciously and feel nothing but anxiety or total indifference.”“Progress lies in works of love, in the fulfillment of the moral law. If you don’t enslave anyone, are not a burden to anyone, what more progress do you want?”“If you don’t make your neighbors feed you, clothe you, drive you around, protect you from enemies, then isn’t that progress in a life that’s all built on slavery? In my opinion, that is the most genuine progress, and perhaps the only kind possible and necessary for man.”

  • Helen
    2019-02-02 16:39

    I was surprised that David Gilmour chose to talk about Chekhov's personality, a matter so subjective (and where did he find the sources anyway), when there are so many more juicy, fact-backed tidbits to talk about:1) If we are talking about his virtues, isn't it likely that he contracted that tuberculosis because he was running left and right healing the peasants on his estate?2) How about the fact that he was not much of a romantic, and preferred professional touch? That he got married reluctantly and never really lived together with this wife? One would think Gilmour would be all over that, considering.(And I take offense at Gilmour's comment about Chekhov looking older than his years. It's only the beard.)FLAG AWAY!

  • Inderjit Sanghera
    2019-01-26 15:01

    THE HOUSE WITH THE MEZZANINEThe House With The Mezzanine is the story of a somewhat diffident young man, a painter, and his somewhat tenuous romance with two sisters during a vacation; the story is laden with the impressionistic images conjured up by its narrator and is one of Chekhov’s finest short stories.The narrator, feeling bored during his holidays, decides to go for a walk and during his walk he comes across the grounds of an unfamiliar manor house; “The sun was already thinking and the evening shadows lay across the flower rye. Two rows of closely planted, towering fir trees, stood like solid, unbroken walls, forming a handsome, sombre avenue…It was quiet and dark, only high up in the trees a vivid golden light quivered here and there and transformed spiders webs into shimmering rainbows” Chekhov brilliantly renders the picture from the perspective of a talented impressionist, the narrators keen eye picking out the oscillations of the spiders web via the sinking son, a sombre atmosphere pervades the scene, a kind of ethereal beauty lingers as the ephemeral beauty of the sun lingers in the avenue; “I went past a white house with a terrace and a kind of mezzanine-and suddenly a vista opened: a courtyard, a large pond with a bathing place, a clump of green willows and a village on the far bank, with a slender tall tower whose cross glittered in the setting sun.” You feel as if you are drifting from one painting to another, the narrator comes across two young women, “One of them-the elder, who was slim, pale and very pretty with a mass of auburn hair and a stubborn mouth-wore a stern expression and hardly looked at me. But the other girl-still very young, no more than seventeen or eighteen-similarly slim and pale, with a large mouth and big eyes, looked at me in astonishment as I walked past.” Note the contrast between his description of the two women, he obviously finds the older attractive and is slightly piqued by her perceived indifferent of him, whereas the description of the younger is less sensuous. Notice also, the description of her ‘stubborn mouth’ and the girls ‘astonished’ gaze at the narrator, who is obviously somewhat unreliable as he is using his later relationship with them to colour his first meeting with them. Not long after this, the older sister, whose name is Lida, pays a visit to the narrator’s friend’s house, where he is staying and, after giving a speech on various social projects she is leading and needs help with, invites him to visit as she and her mother are admirers of his work. (Was she therefore really as indifferent as the narrator makes her out to be when he first sees her?) The narrator is again piqued by her behaviour towards him when they visit; she feels he is misusing his talents by not representing the hardships of the poor and he feels her constant interference in their lives leads to more harm than good. His is treated more favourably, however, by her young sister, Zhenya, he describes her underdeveloped breasts and her child like habit of touching him with her shoulder, he finds her charming and inoffensive, somewhat indolent like him, irrepressibly childish, whereas Lida, whose views he claims he deplores he finds fascinating, “She was a vivacious, sincere young girl, with strong views. And it was fascinating listening to her, although she said a lot-and in a loud voice…” He becomes a regular visitor to the house and his thoughts invariably turn to Lida, whose mouth now becomes ‘finely modelled’, he watches her distribute aid the poor, yet the two get along no better than before and he feels she holds him in contempt for his supposed indifference to the plight of the poor. The two indeed, stand in stark contrast to one another, her social causes cause him to become subconsciously aware of his own diffidence and lack of purpose, whereas his arguments maker her aware of the hypocrisy of her own attitude; after all by raising the peasants aspirations is she not setting them up to fail in a society in which they cannot progress and “it is easy enough to play the good Samaritan when one had five thousand acres of one’s own” Lida, who has established an autocratic power over family and friends, is not having her ideas questioned and responds badly to the narrator’s caustic criticisms, yet the two are irretrievably drawn to one another. On a conscious level at least, the narrator is more drawn to Missy, who obviously admires him as a person and an artist, no doubt stroking his bruised ego, though there is an obvious romantic element to this; “When I came she would bush slightly on seeing me, put down her book, look into my face with her big eyes and tell me enthusiastically what had been happening…” The narrator is aware of this but gently encourages it, they go for walks, go boating and pick cherries, but it is important to note that he does not reciprocate the feelings; only able to observe Missy through the lenses of adolescence, he sees her as a kindred spirit of sort and if he does encourage her affections it is merely to fan the flames of jealousy that Lida feels when she sees them two going for walks; “Lida had just returned from somewhere and she stood by the front porch, crop in hand, looking graceful and beautiful in the sunlight; she was giving orders to one of the workmen. Talking very loudly, she hurriedly spoke to one or two of the patients, and then, with a preoccupied and busy look, marched through the rooms, opened one cupboard after another, after which she went to the attic storey.” The narrator’s revels in the reverence in which Missy and her mother hold him, he notes, with some trepidation, that they regard Lida as an enigma, a general of sorts, yet perhaps he is mixing his own feelings in with theirs? His friendship with the family makes him want to paint again, but also makes him question his lack of direction in life, despite the fact that it is this very idleness that attracts him Missy and her mother and divides him from Lida. He muses to his friend, “Lida could only fall in love with a council worker who is as devoted as she is to hospitals and schools. Oh, for a girl like her one would not only do welfare work but wear a pair of iron boots, like the girls in the fairy tale! And there’s Missy! Isn’t she charming, this Missy?” The narrator is extolling the ‘charms’ of Missy, in a language redolent with indifference, yet is perhaps perturbed that Lida would only fall for a council worker and not, perhaps, a landscape painter.At their next meeting the two again begin a juvenile argument about politics; the narrator is obviously watching her closely as she enters the room as he mentions her removing her gloves (details he rarely gives Missy, who he finds so charming), the narrator argues that her changes to living standards of the poor are shallow and egocentric, she retorts that is better to do something than nothing at all and the most pathetic hospital is worth more than any landscape painting. The narrator leaves for home after the argument and meets Missy at the gates; “It was a sad August night-sad because there was already a breath of autumn of the air.” The narrator is obviously aware that the summer of his holiday and acquaintance with the Volchaninovs will soon be coming to an end. “The moon was rising, veiled by a crimson cloud and casting a dim light on the road and the dark fields of winter corn along its sides. There were many shooting stars. Zhenya walked along the road at my side, trying not to see the shooting stars, which frightened her for some reason.” The narrator realizes that he is in love with Missy-he loves because her because she admires him as an artist and reveres him as a person, he is astonished by the depth of her mind and somewhat fatuously “suspects she is very intelligent”, her beauty moves him, to what I am not too sure, except for an eloquent soliloquy about her appreciation of his art, one suspects why, after spending so much time with Missy he is still unsure about her intelligence, his declaration of love for her is somewhat vague and empty and completely egocentric, his still thinks bitterly about her pretty sister who has no appreciation of his artistic talents, despite the fact that Lida stated she admired his work, and criticised it for its lack of purpose. He kisses her and she, flushed with excitement, departs for home, where he follows her and watches the house. “I walked past the terrace and sat down on a bench on the darkness under the old elm by the tennis court. In the window of the attic storey where she slept, a bright light suddenly shone, turning soft green when the lamp was covered with a shade. I was full of tenderness, calm and contentment- because I had let myself get carried away and fallen in love. And at the same time I was troubled by the thought that a few steps away, Lida lived in one of the rooms of that house, Lida who disliked and possibly hated me.” Given that Lida retires to the attic after seeing the narrator and Missy returning from a walk and that he hears voices in the attic, Lida probably sleeps there with Missy, again although the narrator states he is in love with Missy, his thoughts stray back to and are dominated by Lida and her apparent dislike to him; he feels the attic window where she sleeps staring at him with comprehending eyes, unlike the sad, gentle looks which Missy gives him.The narrator returns the next day, to be confronted by Lida, who tells her Missy and her mother left that morning, Later he is handed a letter from Missy, telling him that Lida disapproves of their relationship and so has sent her away. The narrator is despondent, on his way back home he notes; “Then came the dark fir avenue, the broken down fence.” The story has come full circles as the narrator departs the estate via the route he first entered, “On that same field where I first saw the flowering rye and hear the quails calling, cows and hobbled horses were grazing. Here and there on the hills were the bright green patches of winter corn. A sombre, humdrum mood came over me and I felt ashamed of all I had said at the Volchaninovs.” Perhaps he is ashamed of leading Missy on or being so acerbic and rude to Lida? He soon leaves for home and never sees them again, though he does learn that Lida has strengthened her political grip on the area, though he had no news on Missy, he sometimes harks back to the time and remembers the green lamp in the attic or his footstep as he walked home. The narrator is still, however, consumed by loneliness and diffidence. The House With the Mezzanine is amongst Chekhov’s most beautiful short stories; it conjures up and idyllic picture of the youth of the narrator and of his falling in love-that he attributes this love to the wrong person is a symbol of not only by his naiveté but his egocentricity, although he is critical of Lida for the egocentric element of her charity he fails to recognise this element of his own personality and how it blinds him to his true emotions. Perhaps Lida and the narrator are more similar than they care to imagine; both are driven by immense passion, for entirely different causes, both are stubborn, arrogant and intelligent, both are attracted to each other but fail to acknowledge this attraction and the innocent, naïve Missy is dragged in between. Both are wrong in their assertions-firstly the narrator is his somewhat portentous political statements, after all, as Lida state, in nobody acts to redress the inequalities of society then there will never be any progress. As for Lida’s myopic statement that art has no aesthetic value and that it must have a social element, there is no greater irony that this being said in a work of Chekhov, whose work is ‘art-for-arts sake’ and yet did more to increase awareness of the plight of the poor than any social works and immortalized the lives of the Russian of the time more than any history book. After all, the emotional underplay of the novel and the beautiful descriptions of the environment are eternal, as is all great art, and so will resonate so long as humans feel love and appreciate beauty, whereas art concerned with political is ephemeral by its very nature.

  • Rodrigo
    2019-02-18 19:56

    It is really great to read an absolute master like Chekov. I used to like his short stories when I was a teenager, but it has been a while since I last had something by him in my hands. After reading an old book by Edmund Wilson where he tells about a trip to the Soviet Union and digresses a bit about Russian literature, I decided to try Chekhov again. And I loved it! Every story is populated with amazing characters, carefully developed, humanistic and tender. The building forces of Russian society in the 19th century are all there -- church, proletariat, aristocracy -- articulating themselves around mundane and at the same time complex situations on an individual level. The translation is careful and delicate, showing a deep respect for the original, without losing sight of the pleasure of the reader. Highly recommended.

  • Michael Lisk
    2019-01-30 14:40

    As good as it gets. I read the Constance Garnett translations but I would think it would be impossible to tarnish these in translation (they're also available free online, I believe). They're all worth reading, as are all the stories Chekhov wrote from 1888 to 1904 (I just finished a major binge). My favorites: The Steppe (amazing, like a Russian Italian Western), The Duel, Ward No. 6, In the Ravine, Gusev, Misery, Sorrow, Sleepy, The Lady with a Dog, The Student, etc.

  • Scott Kauffman
    2019-02-10 15:02

    No one does short stories better.

  • Octavian
    2019-02-11 17:03

    This one took me a little longer than expected because I preferred to invest my time in most of unproductive activities during this period. One of the best books I read so far.Some stories particularly had a profound impact on me, I would like to mention some of which I loved the most Дуель (the Duel), Шуточка (the joke), Палата но.6 (ward no.6), Душечка (the darling).Some of the ideas which particularly I found interesting:1) Marcus Aurelius said “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” The wise, or simply, the thinker hates pain, he is always happy and is not surprised by anything2)How do you know that genius people never saw ghost? They say nowadays that genius is akin to insanity. My friend, healthy and normal are only ordinary, common people. 3)The higher the person is from a mental and moral development, the freer he is, the more enjoyable life is to him.4)I was out of my mind, I had the superiority complex, but I was cheerful, often interesting and original. Now I have become more thoughtful and have become like everyone else, I am bored to live. I had hallucinations, but who was hurt by that?5)She concluded every discussion to a dispute, she had this desire to always catch someone's mistake, always to be there to correct someone's sayings. You start talking to her about something, but she already starts to look into your face and waits a good moment to interrupt you. 6)We were silent and in front of strangers she had this irritation against my nature; It did not matter what I was talking about, she would not agree with me, and if I argued than she always took my opponents' side.Wonderfully written stories, some of the masterpieces, brought to us more than 100 years ago. I liked the fact that he touched a lot the love theme and the existence/understanding of the human bodies and nature. I can say this is a book I would definitely recommend for reading.

  • R K
    2019-01-22 13:41

    DNFI just got so bored and kept forgetting people's names and I wasn't blown away by any "revelation" of human nature. So ya......................

  • Frankie
    2019-01-25 14:44

    Chekhov is a master at writing short fiction, and I feel most of these novellas are more like short stories than novels. The first, second and fourth seem more like short-fiction character sketches – which he couldn't conclude without so many extra pages. The first novella "The Steppe" is a warm, coming-of-age tale that displays Chekhov's versatility. Autobiographical to some extent, the story portrays the provincial yet savage side of Ukrainian life in the 19th century. The point of view falters somewhat when digressions show a maturity which a nine-year-old could not possibly possess (e.g. Egorushka's musings on solitude in ch.VI, or on death in ch.VII). Descriptions of the brutal weather of the steppe are beautiful. From the familiar intro, this novella seems to be a nod to Gogol's Dead Souls, and has its fair share of the macabre as well, but ultimately sheds these elements as literally "fireside" anecdotes (Pantelei's tall tales). All in all, Chekhov's realism shines through his Gogolian and Ukrainian folk theme, leaving the reader and Egor in safe hands."The Duel" struck me as completely unlike Chekhov and quite ahead of its time. The setting (a tropical coastal settlement on the Black Sea) and circumstances (alcoholic intellectuals and adultery) both remind me of Fitzgerald or Hemingway. The only Russian element of the plot is the duel itself. Chekhov's zoologist, deacon and libertine remind me of a bar-room joke, and leave me wondering who could be the hero. The zoologist's rationale is particularly unique – I've never heard a Darwinist defense of Christ and the crucifixion. I wonder if these were the author's opinions. The feeble Nadezhda could be the first characterization of the 20th century's "fallen woman.""The Story of an Unknown Man," despite its ambiguous title, is a great and original work and my favorite of these five. It's less than 90 pages, but has the depth of plot and conclusion of a Tolstoy epic. Chekhov's ability to connect different class strata – authentic muzhiks, lackeys, coachmen and maids – has always been impressive and realistic. This story is most distinct, since the hero enters the story as a member of the nobility disguised as a servant. He goes through a reversal in attitude as a result of witnessing the acts and opinions of dissipated men. His choices are all poor, but he endures their consequences. His character is messianic and it's a genuine joy to see him purify himself. "Three Years" is a sort of agonizing tale of hopeless characters. I didn't enjoy it. Chekhov must have been going through some dismal phase when he wrote this, because I saw none of the signature redeeming qualities of his prose. Perhaps he meant to represent the woes of merchant life. Laptev has wise words near the end, which go seemingly unheeded by his deluded family. I feel that this wisdom is what Chekhov feels about the emerging nouveau-riche class of his day. In a dramatic reversal, Laptev's words change the heart of Yulia, but he fails to notice. An ironic but unsatisfying ending."My Life" is an amazing and well-developed story, and the only of these five that seems worthy of being called a novel. Like many Russian works, it reflects the struggle of the 1840s vs. 1860s generations, with emphasis on the dissipation of the nobility. Mostly, however, Chekhov indicts the small town life, with its corruption and ignorance. The main character's father is the strongest and most abiding of the small-town character type, and the father/son argument in the last pages is an incredible passage. My biggest concern with this collection is Chekhov's ability to develop novel-calibur plot lines, but even in their "stretched" condition these works exceed expectation and presage Lost Generation classics by 20 years.

  • Adam Hermansson
    2019-01-28 19:53

    Only 3 stars, WHY?(Chekov) is the object for this "off-track review" & (Short stories) is the subject for this review.He is the acclaimed master of short stories.In one way, that is something unarguably true.But that is somewhat based on the preconceived notion, (risk of non-objectivity here) that short-stories should encapsulate fractions of life, then analyze them with a vivid twist, and finally reach upon an enigmatic yet an aphoristic conclusion.He does this well, so why would I then just give it 3 stars.That is simply due to my subjective notion in regards to judging the value of short stories.I truly indulge in and admire short stories and the virtuous value it brings about.Now the value the short story gives to me (personally) is made up by a few different structural factors.A short story must truly encapsulate something, anything profoundly human. But in its short form, profundity and observation with penetration, as in "to bring out some observation of some event or action, which spotlights the essence of mankind", in order to seal the awe-inspiring enlightenment, or just to cause fascination. This is the basis for my subjective and personal "value-scale" of short-stories.Now this is where Chekov to my surprise fails utterly.He is not profound enough, not enlightening enough, simply he does not take this final step, that is needed in order to create sublime short-stories.Some of his stories are really, really good, very observant and satirical towards certain social behavioral patterns as well as social structures in general. "So surely this master deserve to be referred to as a master, just not by me".I must give a parallel to make this point clear, pardon me if this is insulting, but I would like to contrast Chekov with the supreme Borges. Consume any of his short stories, and you will enter a new world. Because he is so skilled and superb that he does not only enlighten me, but he challenge my whole cognitive perception of the world. This master said himself "that he preferred to write poems and short-stories, because to be profound implies to be succinct, however that being "non-exclusive" of course. So every idea, every line, every word was in essence a forceful idea, that fused into short-stories that will never leave your being.

  • Jeff
    2019-02-18 12:49

    The Russians. For me, there are no group of writers as important, as enjoyable, as the classic Russians. Reading this collection had special meaning as I am reading a copy purchased by my son who, over the last couple of years, has become a reader of the classics. This book features five of what are considered Chekhov's best novellas. The first book is titled " The Steppe ". Like many of his books the story is a description of a time, a place, a way of life, as much as it is a story about characters. In this story we follow Egorshuka, a young Russian boy, who will be transported by his merchant Uncle and the village Rector to a distant village to begin his formal education. He is concerned about this, still a young boy he has the typical concerns of leaving home. Halfway through his journey he is left by his uncle with a group of farmers who are traveling in a more leisurely way to a mutual destination. This is the biggest part of the story as it allows a peak at these simple folks lives. A very strong story, wonderful writing. " The Duel " is the second story and it is much more personality driven. It too succeeds at every level. We follow Ivan Laevsky a man who currently lives with a fallen woman, a woman who left her husband for him. So, fallen she may be but it is his fault. But, as we soon learn, two years into their living together he now is not in love with her. He wants to leave her. Much of the story is his trying to justify his attitudes to friends and others. At the sMe time we meet other characters. The town Doctor, highly respected, who also takes in boarders. One of which is a very dignified man who is repulsed by Laevesky's immoral behaviors. Their conflict which leads to the duel in the title is a contrast between two different ways of living. " The Story of an Unknown Man " begins with a man named Ivanych explaining that he has, under false pretenses, taken a job as a servant for a man named Orlov. He explains this is because he seeks to learn all he can about the mans father, who, we are told, is some sort of nasty banker, merchant, industrialist type and our hero is a pending radical. As he settles into the home though he takes pity on the mistress of the house who he sees being used very poorly by Orlov. Orlov feels very constrained by marriage. He spends all his time with his friends, eventually contriving weeks long non existent business trips. He actually is spending time at those same friends houses. Eventually he tells the woman of the house of the situation. Earlier he himself has a crisis. After months of gaining no information about the Father, his target, the man shows up to visit his son when he is not there. A perfect opportunity to strike the man, to kill him if he desires. In the end the man seems so normal, so ordinarily pitiful, he cannot bring himself to do so. With both his mission unfulfilled and the woman seeing the falseness of her relationship the two leave together eventually falling into a relationship. Eventually the woman becomes pregnant and has a child. The child is returned to her " Father " who thanks Ivanych for his help in providing for the child in the interim." Three Years " follows a man named Laptev. He is the second son of a factory owner. Estranged a bit from his Father he has fallen in love with a dear friend of his sisters. His sister, unfortunately, is very ill. She also is married to a man who is not a good husband, unfaithful, uncaring. The woman is well regarded, very beautiful and is not interested in Laptev romantically. When he asks her to marry him she declines quickly and in an embarrassed way. Later that evening, however, she considers again. He is not attractive and she considers him a bit boorish but he is, by all she knows, caring and kind. She is, at 25, getting older, what if no one else more suitable ever presented himself for marriage. And, it must be pointed out, he is wealthy. Eventually they marry, though he does at time doubt her motives, it turns out they are well matched. They have a child and her life becomes, naturally so, besotted with the child, to the exclusion of most everything else. He feels her drift away, he fears losing her. His relationship with his Father and brother falters even more, his sister dies, he and his wife take in her daughters. In short nothing happens and everything happens. One thinks the author wants us to see that to each man the daily trials of marriage and family can be a life's work. In the end he and we are surprised that only three heads have passed as Laptov wonders what else life will bring." My Life, " subtitled, A Provincials Story, is the most political of these five stories. We meet Mishail and Cleopatra, the adult son and daughter of a well to do noble. As the story begins the son is being fired from his ninth job, he cannot seem to keep work that should suit him. His Father is greatly disappointed and rebukes him sternly, even beating his full grown son with a stick. While his Father wants him to honor his ancestors by taking work suited to a man of his wealth, Mishail is concerned with society as a whole, the enslavement of the poor, and feels that manual labor for all is the only just society. Over time Mishail moves into these professions but is disowned by his Father. He lives poorly. Still, uniquely, his choice is so odd amongst the eligible men of good family that it seems several women, including one described as the most beautiful in the village develop interest in him. She claims to admire his choices, agreeing that to be rich is to be full of greed, speaks about the need for equality. Yet, when they marry and he leaves his manual labor to go run the farm that she has inherited we find her growing more and more repulsed at the peasants in the surrounding area. While he too is bothered by them, their stealing, their drunkenness and ignorance of learning, he also can find it in his heart to admire their simpleness. His wife, however, grows more and more upset until eventually she leaves both the farm and the town leaving with her Father for Petersburg. His sister at the same time has finally left the tyranny of their Father and developed a relationship with the town Doctor. This man, a self proclaimed admirer of her brothers ideas, is married with a daughter their age, but he feels no remorse for their affair. Of course he will not leave his wife and it seems to suit his purposes when Cleopatra dies in childbirth. By this time Mishails wife has written asking for a divorce before she leaves for America. As the story ends we see Mishail still doing manual work, house painting, wallpapering, etc in the town but being treated more respectably, as an eccentric if you will, as he raises his sisters daughter.

  • Meeg
    2019-02-17 19:42

    NOTE: Out of the novellas in this collection, I've only read The DuelistI'm taking a class where we read both the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation (this edition) and the translation by Constance Garnett. Everyone in the class preferred the Garnett translation! She does a better job capturing the poetry and the humor of the original; P&V's translation may stick closer to the literal Russian, but 9 times out of 10 when Garnett renders a phrase more loosely it reads more naturally in English while conveying the same meaning and staying loyal to the spirit of the original. E.g., P&V have Samoilenko refer to his friend Laevsky as "dear heart" while Garnett has him say "my dear boy." No doubt "dear heart" is exactly what it says in Russian, but it sticks out like a broken thumb. No one would say that in English, and "my dear boy" gets the point across just fine. Garnett was a late Victorian Englishwoman, but on the whole her translation isn't hard to read or distractingly antiquated--and if there's sometimes a phrase that sounds a bit turn-of-the-20th-century, maybe that's OK given that Chekhov wrote the original around the turn of the 20th century. And, if you need further convincing, the Garnett translation of "The Duel and Other Stories" is in the public domain and available free from project Gutenberg.CONCLUSION: I would not recommend buying this edition when you can find a copy of the (superior) Garnett translation for free.

  • gwayle
    2019-02-08 19:41

    Finally, I've finished this book. There came a point in each of these short novels when I found them almost unbearably tedious. There are beautiful passages with interesting insights into human psychology and morality, but they are buried under thousands of words of extraneous detail and description. The Steppe is unforgivably drawn out, though I enjoyed the atmospheric evocation of a brutal landscape. The Duel was probably my least favorite, oscillating as it did between a man who whined about his life and a man who whined about how the first man always whined about his life. Blah. The only redeeming feature was that everyone ran around calling each other "dear heart," which amused me immensely. I liked The Story of an Unknown Man--the suspense and unusual premise were welcome, but the ending fell apart. Three Years is OK, nothing special. I was surprised to like My Life the best of the lot: I was expecting something boringly ideological from the summary, but I found it the most consistently engaging and touching. A man for whom "nothing passes" falls deeply in love with a woman for whom "everything passes." The ending is sad and lovely and perfect.I guess I should have started with Chekhov's short stories (versus short novels), but now I'm feeling gun shy.

  • Kristie
    2019-02-08 12:00

    I thoroughly enjoyed these five short novels and highly recommend them for anyone interested in Russian literature from the late 1800's. The new translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky is masterful. With the exception of The Steppe - which is a lovely story of a young boy who accompanies his uncle on a thousand mile journey across the steppe, all the other novels involve the exploration of love, relationships and the complexity of navigating through the changes that were taking place in pre-revolutionary Russia. The novels reveal surprisingly modern behavior and give a very interesting insight into how the wealthy and educated were starting to come to terms with the issues that would eventually spark the revolution itself. These novels are immensely readable as well as entertaining and historically fascinating.

  • Vishal Ithape
    2019-01-26 20:02

    “There is nothing more awful, insulting, and depressing than banality.” ― Anton ChekhovAnton Chekhov translucently agrees to have been inspired from contemporary russian authors(Tolstoy) ; but his perspective on life (or rather non-existentialism) makes it treat to go through every rampant description of miniscule fragments of Élan vital. Nihilism fascinates me , but Chekhov introduced me to horrifying, cringeworthy, notably real side of it, which in my simple mindedness(?), I'd have ignored.These stories just pass by, like glimpses of your reflections(not narcissism) in Steppe.You feel like you're going through episodes of recurrent memory flashes.They're yours but so distant, unreachable, almost non existent.These are experiences; perpetual contemplation of humanly emotions which won't fail to startle you.

  • Tracy Lynch
    2019-02-16 19:55

    Enjoyable short stories that are relevant today. Most share the theme of love, marriage and relationships at a time when women especially had no choice but to marry. Without their own money and mostly uneducated they were unable to support themselves. It is an honest account of love within marriage, women are idealised from afar and due to moral constraints not permitted to get to really know each other and whether they are compatibleOnce they are married and the romance wears thin they, both men and women realise, too late their dreadful mistake. Honest descriptions of characters, some unattractive, which is an honest depiction of real life unlike contemporary novels where the characters all appear to be both slim and beautiful. In my opinion well worth reading

  • Kendall
    2019-01-30 18:59

    The thing I like about Chekhov is the fact his writing is so accessible. That is, the language, the words, the sentences do not read as if they were written over 100 years ago. Reading his work isn’t laborious, it’s as engaging and seamless as any contemporary work of fiction. And his interpretations of human nature and behavior are just as relevant today as they were back then.I don’t know how much of Chekhov’s accessibility in this case is due to Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s translation of his work, but if you’re looking for a good place to start with Chekhov, I think this is it.

  • Scott Cox
    2019-02-18 17:01

    Chekhov is the master of the Russian "minimalist" short story. The story that I liked most, "In Exile" is a dialogue between a young Tartar and an older man, Semyon nicknamed the "Preacher." Both are sentenced, and living in Siberia. Semyon tries to encourage the young Tartar to accept his lot, that it is best to be content and not fight what fate has brought into a man's life. And is this not truly a story of life, and life's struggles? Who is wise? Is it the one who challenges fate or the one who accepts its verdict?

  • Charity
    2019-02-20 14:37

    Rich, haunting, and full of suffering, these novels stick. The characters can appear almost farcical with their extremes and yet they are engagingly real also. They remind me more of caricatures created by the mind in nightmares and they draw you in, with morbid fascination for the unpleasant outcome that certainly lurks behind the next corner. They are a surprisingly suspenseful reads considering that they deal in what would usually be considered the commonplace and petty affairs of the human condition.

  • Jackie
    2019-01-26 14:59

    I think of chekhov as the king of the short story and the master of grayness, disillusionment and ennui. The majority of his short stories and novels are depressing and dark, exploring the meaningless nature of life and human nature. this one is no different. Chekhov's language, i think, is what defines him as an author. He takes the most mundane subject and gives it life, and death simultaneously. He is also able to make you laugh mercilessly in the middle of tragedy and boredom...something only he can really do artfully. { also love his shout-out to tolstoy in "the duel" }

  • Mahmoud Haggui
    2019-01-22 15:47

    ugh Gosh, it's kinda poetic, but I still can't write an accurate review about the Russian Magician Chekhov. so for me, sometimes words are better left unsaid. it ain't possible to describe how does it feel to fall in love, it ain't that graspable to talk about Tchaikovsky's Symphony. you gotta go through the work of art yourself. I really loved the plot, the choice of words and the sense of Artistic analogies. but I'm welling to reread it later on and maybe I'll develop a solid review then.

  • Jessica
    2019-02-12 14:38

    Got through all except "My Life." I was too tired and depressed to keep reading at that point. Chehkov is brilliant but his short novels were emotionally exhausting! Of the ones I read, my vote goes to "The Duel." Funny at times, thought provoking, and, as always, ends sadly. "Three Years" was great as well but was probably the most draining to read. I both sympathized and was incredibly frustrated with every character.

  • Adam Morris
    2019-02-12 20:02

    I never give five stars but made an exception for this collection. Part of it may be due to the unaccustomed format; not short story, not full length novel. The stories focus on a brief timeframe but add depth that cannot be included in a shorter composition. I am a huge Chekhov fan and this is truly wonderful storytelling.

  • Duane Bowker
    2019-02-14 12:55

    A new translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. The book contains the following short novels by Chekhov: The Steppe; The Duel; The Story of an Unknown Man; Three Years, and; My Life. They were all good though I especially liked The Duel and My Life. Pevear has added a highly informative introduction to the collection that is definitely worth reading.

  • Janith Pathirage
    2019-01-27 19:59

    This review is only for the short story, 'The House with an Attic'. This is a trademark Anton Chekhov short story. Only he could right this sort of beauties. Just like you spot a painting of Picasso at a glance , you can identify a good Anton Chekhov story by just reading couple of pages of it. That's why he's my favorite short story writer of all time.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-01-23 14:00 Pullman reads 'The Beauties' by Anton Chekhov. "Like Waiting for Godot, it's a story in which nothing happens, twice."

  • Carolina Morales
    2019-02-02 17:04

    Anton Chekhov is one of the best short novels/novellas/tales authors of his own time (and beyond). A physician by profession and writer as hobby, he understands Humanity in such enlightened manner few people were ever able to.

  • Susan Neuwirth
    2019-02-10 17:45

    Read The Steppes and watch The Duel on Amazon Prime. I get a kick out of Chekov, find he has a sense of humor when he writes. Also hard to remember he wrote in the late 1800's/early 1900's. Seems like a modern writer and such a great writer.